Air Pollution both indoors and outdoors has a significant health impact on UK residents and causes and contributes to many diseases.


Domestic solid fuel burning contributes significantly to levels of pollution specifically particulate matter (PM2.5) which is particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter

South Sefton is currently suffering from higher mortality rates than the UK average for cancer, coronary heart disease and respiratory illnesses. PM2.5 emissions can contribute to these illnesses.


What are the health risks

Particulate matter harms your health

Particulate matter—in particular PM2.5—caused by using inefficient stoves or failing to maintain them properly can lead to serious health issues such as:

  • Asthma
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Respiratory problems

WHO and the NHS

The World Health Organisation (WHO) are an international agency who have declared air pollution as a serious health risk. WHO estimate that over 4 million deaths per year and many more illnesses are caused by ambient air pollution.

One of the  main causes of illnesses from air pollution is as a result of particulate matter emissions specifically – particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM2.5). That’s 0.00025 centimetres or 1/20 the width of a human hair!

South Sefton is currently suffering for higher mortality rates than the UK average for cancer, coronary heart disease and respiratory illnesses. These illnesses have strong links to air pollution.

As a result of increased illnesses across the UK partially due to air pollution, the NHS is under greater strain. It has been estimated that between 2017 and 2025, £1.54 billion will be spent on healthcare as a result of this small particulate matter—that is £192.5 million a year, £13.4 million of which is spent directly in Sefton!


Who's at risk?


Children have small and still developing airways, they also breathe more frequently than adults which leads to them breathing in more of the polluted air.

This pollution may cause illnesses which will affect them them later in life such as asthma as an adult, cardiovascular issues as they age further and even dementia.

The elderly

The elderly are the demographic most likely to have a compromised immune system and lower rates of cell repair, this leads to problems if they do have any illnesses as a result of the air pollution as they are less able to recover.

Heart attacks and strokes are more prevalent in the elderly and one third of strokes are linked to air pollution.

Pregnant Women

Although there is a risk to the women themselves, pregnant women should be particularly careful around high levels of air pollution for the sake of their future child.

Being exposed to areas of high pollution while in the womb has been linked to health issues in the child once born.

Asthma Sufferers

PM2.5 will exasperate the symptoms of an asthmatic and this means that they are in the short term more likely to have an attack and in the long term this can lead to reduced lung function.

Although this has more of an impact on older asthmatics, all ages are at risk.

People with heart conditions

When pollution levels rise, those with existing heart conditions are more at risk of a heart attack or stroke.

There is a multitude of ways which air pollution contributes to this such as by making your blood more likely to clot and damaging your blood vessels, causing narrowing.

How to reduce the risks

A qualified individual services a stove

If you are unsure of any of the below, details can be found in your stove user manual or by contacting a professional such as your chimney sweep.


It is vitally important to have your chimney swept at least once a year (or more frequently dependant upon your choice of fuel).

If you do not get the chimney swept then the build up in the chimney will stop harmful particles from leaving into your house and can even lead to a chimney fire.

A professional chimney sweep will also service your appliance to make sure everything is working correctly.


If you are burning on an older stove or open fire then one way to massively reduce your emissions is to upgrade to a eco-design ready or DEFRA approved stove.


Stoves over 5KW require extra ventilation for example an additional air brick.

Your stove supplier and or installer will be able to provide advice on this.


Your personal burning habits can also impact upon the emissions of your stove.

One of the simplest ways to reduce harmful emissions is by using a more efficient fuel such as dried wood or smokeless solid fuels.

Another simple way to reduce the particulate matter emitted is to ensure that ensure that you are using your stove correctly, details for this will be in your manual as all stoves are built slightly differently.


You can help to maintain your stove in between sweeps by completing some basic maintenance and cleaning tasks.

This includes…

  • Cleaning the glass
  • Cleaning the throat plate
  • Checking the rope seal
  • Emptying the ash pan


All of these will help your stove to run more efficiently and so emit less harmful particulate matter into your home.